Crown molding is typically used around ceilings.

How to Make Shelves With Crown Molding

by Wade Shaddy

Crown molding looks awesome when combined with shelving. It provides support while adding the look of craftsmanship. Crown molding can be difficult to miter around corners due to its complicated angles, but you don't have to deal with that for simple shelving ideas. Get out your tools and build some simple shelves in less than one afternoon.

Crown Molding Anatomy

Crown molding is the queen of all molding. It's found in castles, expensive homes, upscale businesses and estates. It's the crowning jewel that's usually placed in the corner where the ceiling and wall intersect. It may have a combination of dips, cuts, shadow lines and even small teeth known as dentil trim. The differentiating factor between ordinary molding and crown molding is a 45-degree angle on both edges. This allows the molding to span the line diagonally between the ceiling and wall. One edge fits flat against the ceiling, and one edge fits flat against the wall. Crown molding is often much wider than ordinary moldings. It can range from about four inches in width to over five inches. The fact that it's wider and in combination with the two angled sides makes it perfect to support and dress up shelves.

Crowns and Pounds

You can't make a decent shelf with crown molding alone. It's not really wide enough, and it's not flat on the face. Even if you did manage to make a shelf out of it, the back edge would need to be trimmed off, making it even smaller. The key to making shelves with crown molding is to add a small section of plywood or lumber. This design can be found everywhere -- just look for a small shelf with a diagonal section of crown underneath. Start by cutting some plywood or lumber to the desired width of the shelf. For all intents and purposes, the shelf should be no wider than about eight inches for a simple shelf. Any more than that and it could be unstable if overloaded.

Floating Brackets

Use a floating bracket to attach the shelf to the wall. It's one of the most convenient ways to attach simple shelves on the wall. It consists of a small track with a center channel that holds the shelf secure. The channel has two lips; the shelf fits inside the lips and is held in place with leverage. Screw the track to the wall, making sure to hit wall studs. Slip the plywood between the lips and the shelf is ready to go. Here's where the crown molding comes in. Cut a piece of crown molding the same length as the shelf. Place the crown diagonally across the corner in front of the rail. Mark the locations of the crown on the shelf and remove it from the wall. Pin nail the crown to the shelf on the marks. Reinsert the shelf into the channel and then shoot pin nails through the bottom lip of the crown to secure it to the wall. The crown adds beauty and support.

The Corner Conundrum

Even experienced woodworkers have trouble mitering crown molding around corners. It's almost impossible to accomplish using only a miter saw, but it can be done. If you can't live with an open end on the crown molding shelf, there are ways to wrap the crown around the corner. The problem is, crown molding has to be cut upside down so that the miters fit. This is easy enough with a compound miter saw, but using an ordinary saw takes some serious thinking before the cuts are made. Start by cutting some models. Cut the angles on the long piece first, and then practice cutting the mitered ends before tackling the real thing. When you've got the angles and positions right, take notes so that you can reproduce them. Pin nail the long piece onto the shelf first, cut the mitered ends and pin nail them onto the corners, sealing the ends. It looks fantastic, but takes some practice to accomplish. Have some extra crown molding to practice on -- you're going to need it.

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.

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